Tuesday, 13 December 2016
The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; Philippians 1:16
Based on which Greek text is used for the Bible translation, the order of verses 16 & 17 is reversed from more modern translations. This change to the new translations is generally accepted as correct, and thus the words of Paul form a sort of chiasm as he reverses the thought of the preceding verse. Either way though, the intent is unchanged.
He begins the thought with words which speak of those who “preach Christ even from envy and strife.” Expanding on that, he says that they “preach from selfish ambition.” Their intent is to divide the body into factions and then place themselves as the head of the faction they lead. This was exactly what is seen in the Judaizers who formed against Paul in other places, both in Acts and in his epistles.
Their desire was to not allow Christ to be the Head, but themselves. There was no sincerity in their devotion to the Lord, and their intent against Paul was “to add affliction to” his chains. When understanding one of the premises of the book of Acts, it is not hard to know how they intended to do this.
Acts is, at least in part, intended to show that Christianity grew out of the Jewish faith and religious practice. By doing this, it was considered as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire. Therefore, it could be practiced without hindrance or fear of reprisal. Time and again Luke records leaders within the Roman government aligning the faith of Paul under the greater umbrella of Judaism. One of many examples is found in Acts 18 –
“‘“When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat.”’” Acts 18:12-16
In their attempt to find Paul’s beliefs not in accord with the Law of Moses, it would then mean that he was practicing a religion unsanctioned by Rome. If this were so, then he would be counted as an offender worthy of punishment or even death. Time and again though, the Roman authorities found Paul’s religious expression as merely a subsect of biblical Judaism, and it in fact is.
The Law of Moses pointed to its own termination accompanied by the introduction of a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). As this is so, then it is a valid expression of the religion of the Jews. In fact, it is the only valid expression authorized by the now obsolete Law of Moses. However, having misunderstood this, they clung to the Law of Moses as a means to an end. They attempted to have Paul maligned and harmed by their selfish ambition.
Life application: Though we are not normally in chains for our faith today, we who hold to the grace which is found in Jesus Christ actually face the same type of abuse as Paul did. Those in the Hebrew Roots Movement, and other aberrant sects which cling to the Law of Moses as still binding, do so out of selfish ambition and without sincerity. They malign those who believe that we are saved apart from deeds of the law, and they outrageously attack those willing to stand on salvation by grace alone and by faith alone through the work of Christ alone. Watch out for such dogs and mutilators of the flesh.
Lord God, I trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone for my reconciliation to You. What more could I add to that? Amen.